Rental repairs are as much a part of property management as tenant screening and landlord forms. Whether a property is old or new, repairs are going to be needed, and the requests will never come at a convenient time. Preparing for the inevitable will make it feel more like a business transaction, and less like being a victim. Here are some tips that can take some of the stress out of those unwanted repair calls:
Expect, Accept, and Budget for Rental Repairs
You can’t maintain a rental property without periodic repairs and maintenance costs. The stress comes from the unexpected, both in timing and costs. Focus on those predicable items, accept that some will be unpredictable, and develop your plan of attack: Look at a property’s previous repair records to get a sense of its personality. If you don’t have previous records, discuss the topic with other landlords and find out what they budget each year for repairs. That way, you’ll know if you’re in the normal range.Keep that money budgeted, so when that panicky call comes from the tenant — probably while you are out to dinner — money won’t be the first thing on your mind. Practice what to say ahead of time, just like a fire drill. That will erase the tension from your voice when you talk to the tenant, and keep everyone calm while you work through what has to done.
Cheap Labor Leads to High Repair Costs
One of the fastest ways to elevate repair costs is using unskilled workers. From code violations to risky installs, when it comes to repairs, you truly get what you pay for. A quick fix that falls apart ends up costing even more to undo. Use skilled, licensed and insured workers, especially if the repair requires knowledge of local building codes. Try to find vendors who offer warranties. Workers should be personable and respectful of the tenants. If possible, meet you workers in advance. That way you’ve had a chance to check them out, including running references and background checks. When you call with an emergency, you’ll be a client, not some prospective customer that will have to wait in line.
Create a Wall of Separation
Another advantage of using vendors for the tough jobs is that extra layer of insulation between you and the tenant. In the course of any tenancy, the property may need a number of repairs, and that can start to spark tensions. But if you can view yourself as the dispatcher — the problem-solver — you remain a hero to your tenant, and enjoy a degree of separation that keeps you and the tenant from sparring. All you have to do is get the facts about the repair, and match up the vendor. Get the tenant’s buy-in by asking them to help you evaluate the seriousness of the repair. Is there a fire, water or safety issue that warrants an immediate visit? Are there habitability issues, like no hot water, no electricity, or pests in the property? Are they going to miss work or a night’s sleep? By helping to prioritize, the tenant’s stress level diminishes, and they let you lead.
Many nonemergency issues can be resolved to the tenant’s satisfaction by simply explaining what will happen. Follow up with the tenant, and keep them informed along the way. After the repair is made, allow them the opportunity to evaluate the workers. The urgency the tenant may be expressing when they call could be due to the fact that they don’t think you’ll get right on it unless they throw a fit. It’s important to let tenants know that you are listening. Ignoring or putting down tenants not only makes them bitter, it also encourages them to take matters into their own hands — and that’s a recipe for disaster.!
Renters Insurance Offers Peace of Mind
It’s always a good idea to talk with new tenants about renters insurance, explaining that landlord insurance will not cover losses of personal belongings. While renters insurance won’t reduce repair costs, it can take some of the stress out of catastrophic situations, like fires and floods. It’s in everyone’s best interests if the tenant can afford to re-stock, and still pay the rent.